Saturday, May 20, 2023

Play: Trolling for Talent

Lydia and the Troll - Book, Music & Lyrics by Justin Huertas, Additional Music and Music Production by Steven Tran, Co-Created and Directed by Ameenah Kaplan. The Freemont Troll (shown right) was designed and built in 1990 by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. 

This one had a lengthy journey to the stage. It was part of the Seattle Rep season about four years ago, then pushed back to the following season, then COVID, and finally is making its way back to the stage. And it was worth the wait. 

Sarah Russell is Lydia - songwriter, podcaster, lapsed alcoholic, and would-be producer, on the verge of her big break - a record deal and a tour. All she has to do is write one more original song for the Judges at an audition in 24 hours. And she's hit a writer's block. She meets Jane (Janet Krupin), who is a fan, supporter, and is absolutely sure of Lydia's talent. 

Jane is also a troll. A real troll. In her original monstrous form she will turn to stone in sunlight, so she achieves immortality in 20-year chunks by crawling inside the skin of talented targets and letting them pay the price while she exploits their creativity. And she's got a deadline as well - find a new host or revert to her monstrous nature. And Lydia is her target. 

Russel's Lydia is a jangle of self-doubt and insecurity, an easy target. Krupin's Jane is a manic pixie troll,  happy in her own devilishness and effective in her temptations. The third member of the group is Pete (Adam Standley), Lydia's nerdish, needy boyfriend (nerdy down to the Amazon ID tag on his belt) who thinks himself as the hero but instead is the sidekick (and sometimes collateral damage). All three are strong, dynamic actors and singers, and while overmiked in places, are more than up to the challenges of the musical. 

Yes, it's a musical. The book and music is by Justin Huertas, who has become a local theatre landmark, the up-and-coming creative whose works have been rooted in the Pacific Northwest. Lizard Boy, previously at the Rep, was Seattle mutant super-heroes. We've Battled Monsters Before at the ArtsWest dealt with Filipino legend but set in the Seattle area. The Last Octopus Wrestling Champion, also at the ArtsWest took its lead from a PNW sport of ages past. And yeah, the Lovely Bride and I like his stuff. He lives in the "True Musical" genre (an argument our local group of friends has had a number of times) in that his stories are told through song as opposed to being supplemented by song (The argument is kinda involved, and has spanned numerous dinners). And yeah, we know his tropes and how he puts a song together. And it remains really, really good. 

Oh, yeah, there are puppets. The Lovely Bride HATES puppets in stage productions, but even she had to admit these were very good. Puppeteers Guy Garrison and Sophia Franzella  do a fantastic job with the puppetry, mostly shadow puppets on movable screens to handle transformations, secret appearances, and chase scenes. Yeah, there's a climactic chase scene between troll and Volkwagon, which ends up beneath the Aurora Bridge. And if you're a Seattle native, you know why that's important. Garrisona nd Franzella also fill in with bit parts as well, but the heart remains with Lydia, Pete, and Jane the Troll.

Lydia and the Troll took a long time to get to the stage, and it was totally worth it. It is an excellent capstone for a Rep season that was mostly hits and only a few weak spots. It is good to see the Rep recovering from the COVID desert and building a strong season. But if you're a local, yeah, you should go see this one.

More later,